CLEMSON — To say Saturday's Clemson-USC game had a Twilight Zone-esque feel
to it would be akin to calling the space shuttle a neat little rocket.
If there's been a stranger contest between the two, none in recent memory
comes to mind. Any game with two passes intercepted by defensive lineman
qualifies for that honor on its own merit.
But it was more than that. Aaron Hunt's two field goals were just Clemson's
second and third in its last six games. And South Carolina quarterback Phil
Petty spent the third quarter playing catch with Tigers' cornerback Alex
Even Ardley's two interceptions raised eyebrows, because the last thing
burned worse than Clemson's secondary in recent weeks was Atlanta when coach
Sherman came to town.
And after running Derek Watson 13 times for 124 yards in the first half, why
didn't Skippy keep pounding the ball at Clemson's defense? By the time the
offensive Holtz went back to his sophomore tailback with any consistency,
both Watson and the offensive line had lost their combined rhythm.
Of course, Clemson's offense was no thing of beauty, either. Woody Dantzler's
continued tendency to drop his head and run at the slightest sign of pressure
cost the Tigers several potentially lucrative passing plays. And receivers
spent more time slipping and sliding than a pee wee hockey team.
The first half alone was a comedy of errors.
It started with South Carolina's Ryan Brewer inexplicably picking up a punt
at the seven, a kick that very well may have rolled into the end zone. All
Brewer got for his efforts was a pounding by the Clemson coverage team and an
earful from Lou Holtz.
Not to be outdone, Clemson's Travis Zachery threw what may have been the
world's worst halfback option pass at the most inopportune time imaginable.
Facing third-and-four from the Gamecock 15, Zachery took the pitch and rolled
to his right under pressure. But instead of just eating the ball, running out
of bounds and setting up a field goal attempt (emphasis on attempt), Zachery s
topped, whirled back to his left and threw a wounded duck as he fell
backwards. No surprise then that was intercepted by defensive lineman
Then there were the penalties. The Gamecocks committed three personal fouls,
and for good measure added an offensive pass interference that cost them a
Clemson added a personal foul of its own, and spent nearly as many plays
lined up in the neutral zone on defense as it did on its own side of the ball.
And the officials? Well, let's just say the striped shirts had more
conferences than a convention of Legionaries.
And we're still trying to figure out how a punt that rolls into the leg of an
unwitting return-team blocker isn't a fumble. The official explanation that
the recovery was nullified because the player was blocked into the ball
Sorry Mr. Swofford. Your boys can do better.